Three Acts of Architecture, featured in THAT Magazine Fall Issue

photo 1 (5)

Sketch for a drawing (Act 3)

(Short update: Following my contribution, the AKM piece, we sat down with THAT Magazine’s editor-in-chief, Simon Johnson, and decided to collaborate further, having me as a contributing editor for the Architecture section. Yet, and willingly, there is no ‘section’ in THAT and I personally don’t think one could and should seperate or categorize such areas of simultaneous thought and production. This is particularly critical for Architecture which can, most likely, be found elsewhere and has the potential or even the custom to spread over any discipline, the potential to involve literature, science, memory, sociology etc. and to blend with all. This also makes up a short synopsis for my own work and research.  Well, yes and yes, I took the job.)

Act 3: Occupying the Shift / Construction of Memory

For the Fall issue, the editorial idea was to be in line with the upcoming Istanbul Biennial back then, focusing on the theme of public spaces and meaning of such places regarding democracy and social engagement, as THAT will be a participating press item in the event (see here for a short brief). The timing was crucial and almost perfect. The issue was to be published right after Gezi, where one has already engaged with the discourse of the Biennial or even beyond its intentions, and much critically in first hand. So we had a solid subject that is rich, highly real and even, oddly, popular. Yet, being intentionally against the idea of having a ‘Gezi Issue’ whatsoever, we have decided to have the Gezi as an object, not the subject matter, and to focus on the wider themes discussed in the Biennial brief. For my point of view, June was all centered around a reconstruction, the remaking of public space and its very meaning, and remaking it in situ and in person. During the early correspondence, the themes came up were the twofold transformation or the “shift” of meanings and accompanying spaces, the experience of such transformation and, specifically, the wandering. Well, there were also some other issues about representational structure of our democracy, the discourse that is linked to some Latourian themes (discussed here earlier) regarding the aftermath of Gezi where public parks has transformed into the very agents and spaces of direct engagement hosting remarkable assemblies, thus becoming Thing-Places.  We have chosen to step in to the former:

“through a forest of cheers and people, you reach to a flat terrain, a fair-like area, where all seems floatable and actually are floating-like, objects of attention, where, walking through people and the crowd with the same pace and sort of excitement that everyone seem to have, the possible excitement of setting foot at a fresh ground of some sudden happening or a new planet, a huge one, where, at least theoretically and momentarily, everything seems possible. All one can do is to wander around with big eyes and relaxed steps in this huge and partially unknown shift, yet all made by people, by our very hands. then you drift through the upcoming objects, as parts of this exhibition, like in an open air museum.”


Cover Page Detail for Three Acts of Architecture

This was a summary of some quick text messages sent out to a friend on June 2nd, as the written impressions of that experience in the form of a partially theoretical and architectural reading. It was this particular experience, what Gezi clearly was. And we have decided to ramble around it. Let me share another quick summary in the form of an early email sent to Simon:

“This first part of protests in Taksim was a sudden transformation, mentally and physically where, I think, the people has the chance to occupy and wander around the very transformation just happened, as a unique experience. You can literally inhabit that “shift”. This might also possess links to the simultaneous transformation of the physical space, theory and information as a complete practice, referring to the Situationist tactics and texts on dérive and détournement in general.”

So yes, it was the experience caused by the bodily presence, which was primarily wandering. Referring the apparent themes of Situationist International and Lettrists, and much crucially, the experience was all subjective. (I recall Simon referring to his own occasional strolls during the first week of Gezi, aimlessly walking around Taksim Square, following our dialogue on wandering.) Each wanderer has the chance to have their own Gezi moment, or Gezi learning on this ‘new planet’.  It was the act of wandering and remembering that coincides with that of comprehending. That makes up the “Act 3” (You may see the related drawing at the end of the post).

Act 1/1: Remembering

The other acts arrived later, so did the wording ‘act’. Going back to the Architecture, and that it being a practice in the first place, one is tempted to ponder over the action, which, after all, Gezi was made of. As my first contact in editorship, I have decided to include a very peculiar act that is performed by the group called HIM (Herkes Icin Mimarlik / Architecture for All, check them out here). What they did, in the form of direct action and of a call for all architects, was to record various anonymously-built structures (barricades, public libraries, stands and so on) by carefully drawing them. It was a relentless act of documentation, an act that, I think, is equated in the very heart of our discipline. At first, it might seem like a problematic attempt in terms of practicality of such drawings which belong to some anonymously built and brilliantly spontaneous structures. It might even be questionable to ‘freeze’ such ephemeral pieces, thus making them objects, that had their time and meaning right in their true context and temporal functionality. Yet, it was all a different act than just simply producing functional drawings and had a deeper purpose than just architectural detailing. It was actually not the drawings that mattered, but the idea and the very will of making them was the issue. The activity of the drawing transcends the resulting drawings in meaning.  The architecture is now transformed into the very act, arriving ‘back’ to its own essence. And that act was actually the act of remembering that was strictly suggested by an architect’s attitude as a ‘mode of resistance’, where all is subjected and even forced to forgetting:

“(From the public statement by HIM, regarding their project) Creating a collective memory is really important when the establishment is trying to forget everything. The life cycle of these structures were really short so we had to document them. We believe it is a way of passive resistance. We keep remembering what happened in Taksim.”

The Mirror Text

Going back to Paul Auster, again and again, I was able to understand bit more about the ways to read things and how myself could make meaning out of those pieces. Other than the discourse of coinciding moments that takes a large part of my understanding and of other posts in the blog, he was able to, or at least was trying relentlessly, to situate things closer or to pair them, although all might seem irrelevant at first take. In his book Invention of The Solitude, in the second part The Book of Memory, he often uses several “mirror texts”, different stories and takes that usually happened and written in other times and other places, in order to go around the same subject such as chance, death and memory. It was almost like after feeling he’s come to an end of understanding, he stops there and takes another path not from but towards the subject. It was all but, in multiple meanings of the word, a desperate effort to make sense of the world. After finishing the book and going through various mirror and coupling texts over the basic subjects he has troubled with, I realized that at the beginning of The Book of Memory, he inscribes about his approach in a key sentence:

Everything, in some sense, can be read as a gloss on everything else.”

It basically means, one can try to understand things through other things, read stories through other stories:

Act 1/2: Remembering

So, I tried to remember a story of my own, that I didn’t chose to go towards but came back to me after thinking about act and remembering. It was a class of, the dearest, Lebbeus Woods, “Drawing Utopia” back at Cooper Union. For one day, he has invited an old friend of his and a true legend from a different world of architecture, Raimund Abraham. Although I wasn’t able to recall clearly about the class and things he’s shown, I was rambling about a few sentences that struck me back then, yet somehow faded from my memory but reappeared  by the help of the previous act of HIM. He gave a talk that is less about his own works, and more about the ways he has lived and grown an attitude. He didn’t work for anyone, for any architect or a company yet he was able to make living by designing door handles and somewhat able to do what he wanted to spend his time on. He was all true and sincere during his speech, informally chatting with Lebbeus and us congregated around the table on 7th floor reading room. During his speech, summarized below, he seemed somewhat tired (his age was 77 at the time so that is partially normal) but also sounded very peaceful and yet very enthusiastic about his ways of living and the meaning of architecture. He started with what architecture was about for him, where he essentially described it as a place of tranquility,  a place of resting: a safe enclave protected from the world outside.

woods and abraham

Raimund Abraham (1933-2010) & Lebbeus Woods (1940-2012)

Yet, one realizes he wasn’t referring to a particular location or a place, or to any of his design works. He was simply and strictly talking about Architecture, not buildings or making them, but about the discipline. Thinking about his life and attitude, and his words on architecture, there forms a narrative, again, where the discipline is aligned with the act. He lived his life as an architect. That life was all but making architecture, making the things he wanted, producing those beautiful drawings, relentlessly drawn and elaborated all of which construct the enclave he’s been speaking about. His act was the safe place he has created, the act of drawing was the place of tranquility, a sanctuary for one’s soul raised by one’s whole life and attitude. Lebbeus, also, was able to find and realize an architecture that is beyond conventional and practical understanding, say, simply making buildings for clients. I also recall in one class he was saying, referring to his early years, “I just had to draw, didn’t have anything else to do(…) That was the only thing that I had“. Much like Abraham’s sanctuary of practice, he spend his life drawing different worlds, fields of forces and different futures. Both lived their lives as architects, inside the discipline. And that story makes up the other mirror text for the Act 1.

End Notes on the Three Acts: More Mirrored Texts, Details of Publication & “Understanding as Wandering and as Remembering”

act 2

The Pages of Act 2, published form

Similar to Auster’s writing, by juxtaposing mirror texts, I was able to give the reader, and also to myself, a chance to make meaning of his/her own. For Act 2, the references to the Lettrist work by Ralph Rumney (1) is displayed regarding our earlier discussions with Simon on wandering. Two quotes by Ken Wark, my partner in New New Babylon project, were also included.(2) Thankfully, everything again, in some vague level, seems connected and speaking to each other:

(Gloss on Act 1, THE PRACTICE AND THE SANCTUARY OF ABRAHAM) “(…)That’s the challenge of the dérive. The breakaway Lettrist International created a new practice,  a new way of being in the world, out of which to derive a new kind of practice.

(Gloss on Act 3, THE SUBJECTIVE WANDERING) “(…)The subjective belongs to the city and can be analyzed experimentally, much as the city is subjective and can be reconstructed to expand with our desires.”

The drawing for Act 3, can be viewed at the end below, is an attempt to document and project my very first experience of 15 minutes in Gezi, “The Stroll”, on June 2nd (which has been put into words on a text message, see the first part), rendering my own understanding of the spatial/theoretical shift and its components in time. In the cover page and for the background of Act 1, the very “act of drawing” (3) was exhibited rather than the drawings themselves. The result of such drawings has been used in the Act 3 drawing, where again, the whole idea and the process of making this piece for THAT and all the drawing attempts demonstrate the architecture primarily being an act. The mirror texts are placed vertically mirrored, so the reader needs to turn the magazine upside down where s/he is introduced to different perceptions of the print material and the drawings.


Act 3 (Click for detailed preview)

1 I remember it was David Turnbull who has insisted on looking for material more like Rumney’s, regarding my early thesis research on Situationist City back at Cooper. I believe his point was, compared to the renowned work of Debord and Jorn (The Naked City map etc.), these photo-collages are much more open-ended and in a sense much more personal while depicting relatively richer clues for such ‘particular atmospheres’ and hidden spaces of the city.

2 Thanks to the method of mirror texting, I was able to include the two chosen consequential notes from Wark’s The Beach Beneath The Street (Verso, 2011), leaving out none. Regarding the early work of Lettrists and the true spirit of Dérive, the second part, “No More Temples of the Sun” is a main recommended reading. 

3 The drawings and images depicting the process was mainly produced in Autodesk Autocad (Background of Act 1) and Adobe Photoshop softwares (Background of Cover Page).

About intersections23rdn5th

Architect, Designer and Researcher - based in Istanbul and New York City.

One comment

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